Although spinal cord injuries are very rare in rugby union, spinal injuries without cord involvement occur much more frequently (Jackoet I 1998) (Garraway WM 2000) (Brooks JHM 2005) (Fuller CW 2007). The former are however, a very high consequence injury and it is important that those providing pitch side care are able to recognise and manage spinal injuries appropriately, particularly those with the potential to cause damage to the spinal cord.

In rugby, the injury is usually low velocity and the spinal cord is usually intact with limited primary pathology. Secondary pathology due to hypoxia of the cord is thought to be the mechanism which results in most of the permanent damage to the cord (Rowland JW 2008). Optimal management at the scene, during transport and at the hospital, therefore have the potential to have a significant positive influence on morbidity, and determine whether the patient regains normal function or is disabled for life.